• Hannah Phillips

Make Space for Whales

As South Australia’s annual whale migration begins, water users are being reminded to keep their distance from the giant mammals of the sea.

Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) Animal Welfare Manager Deb Kelly said they have received reports of boaties and paddle boarders getting too close to whales off the coast of the Eyre and Fleurieu Peninsulas.

“High powered boats and jet skis are not allowed closer than 300 metres to a whale, and paddle boarders and other conventional vessels must not come closer than 100 metres,” she said.

“Many of us dream of a close encounter with whales or dolphins, but there are rules in place

for the animal’s safety and our own.

“The rules apply to all water users, including people in high powered vessels, in cabin cruisers, yachts and small vessels such as tinnies and kayaks, and even to surfers and swimmers.

"Whales are wild animals that are not used to humans, so moving too close can distress them or even result in an injury, especially if their young are present.

“Signs that a whale is stressed include frequent diving, spending a longer time below the surface, increasing their speed, repeatedly changing directions, and frequent water spurts and tail slaps.

“If you see a whale, move away from it until you are at the legal distance...If you are in a vessel with an engine, cut the motor and wait.

“If you’re lucky, you may be treated to a wonderful experience on the animal’s own terms,” Dr Kelly said.

Under the National Parks and Wildlife Act, people can be fined $100,000 for getting too close to a marine mammal.